Category Archives: Church

London – The First Theatres – 1574 – Patents

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London’s theatres from the 1100s through to the 1800s.

London – The First Theatres – 1574 – Patents

When dramatic representations ceased to be founded on religious subjects, they were no longer performed in churches, as was the case sometimes with the mysteries and moralities, and playhouses became necessary. The convenient form of the  inns (still preserved in many of them) in London, with an open area in the centre, and a gallery on each side of the quadrangle, presented itself as a theatre ready made, with the exception of the stage; this was easily raised either in the centre or on one side of the court, and thus many of our early dramatic pieces were performed in the yards of the inns. Even the first theatres were but a very slight improvement, for the area or pit was generally exposed to the air.

The first company of players that received the sanction of a patent, was that of James Burbidge and others, the servants of the Earl of Leicester, to whom Queen Elizabeth granted a patent in [1574]. The children of the royal chapel, afterwards called the children of the Revels, were next formed into a company; and the Lord Admiral and Lord Strange had each a company of players, who occasionally exhibited at the houses of their patrons, or in other parts of the town. Stowe states, that Lord Strange’s players performed an obnoxious play at the Cross Keys in 1589 and although the lord treasurer had requested the lord mayor to suppress it, they disobeyed the order, which induced his lordship to commit two of them to the Compter, and to prohibit all plays until the pleasure of the lord treasurer was known. Previous to this time the plays were complained of as personal satires; and so early as the year [1574], Sir James Hawes, lord mayor, issued a proclamation in which he claimed for himself and the court of aldermen, the privilege now exercised by the lord chamberlain, of perusing and sanctioning the plays previous to their being acted. A penalty of five pounds and fourteen days imprisonment were inflicted on all actors of plays, “wherein should be uttered any words, examples or doings of any unchastity, sedition, or such like unfit and uncomely matter.” Yet it was provided that this act “should not extend to plays performed in private houses, the lodgings of a nobleman, citizen or gentleman, for the celebration of any marriage or other festivity, and where no collection of money was made from the auditors.”

It appears from Stowe, that the first players were “ingenious tradesmen and gentlemen’s servants,” who united in a company of themselves “to learn interludes, to expose vice, or to represent the noble actions of our ancestors;” but that in process of time it became an occupation, when the players publicly “uttered popular and seditious matters, and shameful speeches; and these plays being commonly acted on Sundays and festivals, the churches were forsaken, and the play houses thronged.”

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

William Shakespeare on Wikipedia

The Globe Theatre on Wikipedia

Sholto and Rueben Percy

London – The First Theatres – 1378 – Parish Clubs

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London’s theatres from the 1100s through to the 1800s.

London – The First Theatres – 1378 – Parish Clubs

The mysteries were succeeded by the moralities, which made a nearer approach to dramatic representation. They were, as Mr. Hone, in his work on Ancient Mysteries, observes, “dramatic allegories, in which the characters personify certain vices or virtues, with the intent to inforce some moral or religious principle. “A curious copy of one of those moralities, entitled the “Castle of Good Perseverance,” was formerly in the library of the late  Dr. Cox Macro, the first leaf of which contains not only directions to the players, but the colour of the dresses they shall wear. The three daughters are denoted to be clad, “i metelys,” that is appropriately; Mercy with righteousness in red altogether, Truth in sad green, and Peace all in black; and the person that plays Belial is particularly cautioned to have gunpowder burning in pipes in his hands, eyes, and other places when he goeth to battle.

When the reformation took place, mysteries and moralities, which had been expressly employed in favour of the Roman Catholic religion, were resorted to in order to overturn it, and was found a good auxiliary for such a purpose.

The parish clubs appear to have been rivalled in the performing of mysteries and moralities by “the children of Powles,” as a body of juvenile actors, to whom the English drama is considerably indebted, was called. They can be traced back as far as the year 1378, when they petitioned Richard II. to prohibit ignorant persons from acting the history of the Old Testament, as they had been at great expense in preparing it for the ensuing Christmas. The place of exhibition was generally their school room near St. Paul’s, where they continued to act their mysteries and moralities until the year 1580, when, on account of the plague, all interludes were prohibited and the house pulled down. The price of admission was about two pence. The children of Paul’s sometimes exhibited before Queen Elizabeth at Whitehall and Greenwich, and after their school had been erased to the ground they performed at Blackfriars.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

William Shakespeare on Wikipedia

The Globe Theatre on Wikipedia

Sholto and Rueben Percy

London – The First Theatres – 1240 – Clerkenwell

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London’s theatres from the 1100s through to the 1800s.

London – The First Theatres – 1240 – Clerkenwell

The most eminent performers of the ancient mysteries in London were the parish clerks, who were incorporated about the year 1240; and one of the principal scenes of these exhibitions was at the Skinner’s Well, in Rag-street, or, as it is now called, Ray-street, Clerkenwell. One of the most remarkable of these mysteries, as has already been stated, was performed here on the 18th, 19th, and 20th of July, 1391, when they had for an audience Richard the Second, his queen and court. Another mystery on a more extended scale was performed here in 1409, before Henry the Fourth, several nobles, and the principal citizens: one of the mysteries was founded on the creation of the world, and the performances were extended to eight days.

Few, in London, are the memorials of the olden time that are preserved on modern buildings, a circumstance which is much regretted; to the honour, however, of the inhabitants of Clerkenwell, they have recorded the celebrity which the parish once possessed, by causing the following inscription to be placed in letters of iron on the pump on the east side of Raystreet.

“A.D. 1800. WILLIAM BOUND, JOSEPH BIRD, Churchwardens. For the better accommodation of the neighbourhood, this pump was removed to the spot where it now stands.

The spring by which it is supplied is situated four feet eastward, and round it, as history informs us, the parish clerks of London, in remote ages, commonly performed sacred plays. That custom caused it to be denominated Clerk’s well, and from whence this parish derived its name.

The water was greatly esteemed by the prior and brethren of the order of St John of Jerusalem and the Benedictine nuns in the neighbourhood.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

William Shakespeare on Wikipedia

The Globe Theatre on Wikipedia

Sholto and Rueben Percy

London – The First Theatres – 1110 – Mysteries & Moralities

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London’s theatres from the 1100s through to the 1800s.

 

London – The First Theatres – 1110 – Mysteries & Moralities

Rude as the early dramatic and scenic representations in the metropolis may now seem, they were proofs of an advance in intellectual knowledge and refinement of manners beyond those of our continental neighbours. To England, Germany was indebted for the drama, and in France it only became worthy of notice half a century after Shakespeare had raised it to its zenith of glory in England.

The mysteries, those precursors of the regular drama, which consisted of dramatic representations of religious subjects, either from the Old or New Testament, apocryphal story, or lives of the saints, are clearly proved to have been known in this country in the year 1110, which is more than a century earlier than the first record of them in Italy, where, according to  Dr. Burney, they were not known until the year 1243, when a spiritual comedy was represented at Padua. Matthew of Paris relates, that in the year 1110, Geoffrey, a learned Norman master of the school of the abbey of Dunstable, composed the play of St. Catherine, which was acted by his scholars; and Fitz-stephen, who wrote in 1174, speaks of the mysteries as quite common in the metropolis: “London,” he says, “for its theatrical exhibitions has religious plays, either the representations of miracles wrought by holy confessors, or the sufferings of martyrs.”

That the mysteries were one of the means used by the priests to sustain the Roman Catholic religion, is evident from the pope granting pardons and indulgences to those who attended some mysteries that were represented at Chester about the year 1398. By this time they had become so popular that the audience wished to have them in English, and it is related in one of the Harleian MS. in the British Museum, that the author of the Chester plays, Ranolph Higden, “was thrice at Rome before he could obtain leave of the pope to have them in the English tongue;”  the objection of the pope was no doubt that which the Roman Catholic church so often feels against the people being acquainted with the sacred Scriptures. The inference from this is, that the ancient mysteries were performed in Latin, and yet neither Matthew of Paris nor Fitz-stephen assert this.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

William Shakespeare on Wikipedia

The Globe Theatre on Wikipedia

Sholto and Rueben Percy

Merging of Roman and Teuton

 

 

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Merging of Roman and Teuton

In the sixth century, after long decline, the Empire fell for a time to a capable ruler, Justinian the Great (527-565).  We remember him chiefly because he brought about a codification of the Roman law.  In the course of centuries, that law had become an intolerable maze.  Now a commission of able lawyers put the whole mass into a new form, marvelously compact, clear, and orderly.

 

Church of St Sophia

Church of St Sophia, Constantinople – built by Justinian upon the site of an earlier church of the same name by Constantine.  The whole interior is lined with costly, many-colored marbles.  This view shows only a part of the vast dome, with eighteen of the forty windows which run about its circumference of some 340 feet.  In 1463 the building became a Mohammedan mosque (p. 121). In 1919 it became again a Christian temple.

 

Justinian also reconquered Italy for the Empire, and so the code was established in that land. Thence, through the church, and some centuries later through a new class of lawyers, it spread over the West.

Justinian’s conquest of Italy had another result less happy.  His generals destroyed a promising kingdom of the East Goths in Italy.   Then (568), immediately after the great emperor’s death, a new German people, the savage Lombards, swarmed into the peninsula, and soon conquered much of it. Their chief kingdom was in the Po valley, which we still call Lombardy; but various Lombard “dukedoms” were scattered also in other parts.  The Empire kept (1) the “Exarchate of Ravenna” on the Adriatic; (2) Rome, with a little territory about it; and (3) the extreme south.  

Thus Italy, the middle land for which Roman and Teuton had struggled for centuries, was at last divided between them, and shattered into fragments in the process. No other country suffered so terribly in the centuries of invasion as this lovely peninsula which had so long been mistress of the world.

Excerpt from The Story of Modern Progress by Willis Mason West – 1920

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Further Reading and External Links

Justinian the Great on Wikipedia

The Fall of the Western Roman Empire

More on Justinian the Great

 

Diet of Worms

The Diet of Worms from

The Life and Letters of Martin Luther

by Reserved Smith PH.D. 1911

Martin Luther etching 1521

The DIET OF WORMS. 1521 From Cologne Charles V proceeded to Mayence and thence to Worms, where he was about to open his first diet. The varied programme of the national assembly included the drafting of a constitution for the Empire and the formulation of grievances against the tyranny of the Roman hierarchy.  It could hardly hope to avoid the religious question then agitating the whole nation, but the unprecedented course of summoning the heretic to answer before the representatives of his nation was not decided on until after the estates had been sitting for a month.

Luther himself, in appealing to the Emperor, did not expect to be called before the Diet; he hoped to be allowed to defend his doctrines before a specially appointed tribunal of able and impartial theologians.  This plan was pressed quietly but vigorously by Erasmus, the foremost living man of letters.  Besides his action in urging Frederic to insist on such a trial for his subject, the great humanist had, at Cologne, handed to the counsellors of the Emperor a short memorial, Advice of One heartily wishing the Peace of the Church, proposing the appointment of such a commission.  He partly won over the Emperor’s confessor, Glapion, but Chievres and Gattinara, the real powers behind the imperial throne, remained in opposition.   A little later at Worms, John Faber, a Dominican friar, came forward with a similar plan, composed with the help of Erasmus.

Such a solution of the difficulty would have been most distasteful to the Curia.  Regarding the Wittenberg professor’s opinions as res adjudicates, the Romanists saw no reason for giving him a chance to defend them, and wished only to punish the man already condemned.  This course was urged by Aleander, an extremely able and unscrupulous diplomat.  His chief support was the young emperor, whose formal, backward mind failed to comprehend and even detested any variation from the faith in which he had been brought up.